A trip to a foreign country can indeed be fun and exciting. However, a fun trip can sometimes turn sour without proper planning or prior knowledge of the country. Therefore, it is always advisable for travelers to learn more about a foreign country that they are about to visit so as to expect the unexpected and take proper precautions before making the trip there. Here are some useful travel tips that can help make your trip to the Philippines enjoyable and memorable.
Philippines is blessed with a tropical climate that has relatively generous amount of rainfall and gentle winds. Basically, there are three noticeable seasons namely the wet and rainy season (June-October), the cool but dry season (November-February) and the hot and dry season (March-May).
When To Go?
The best time to make a trip to the Philippines is from the middle of December to the middle of May because that is off-season for typhoons. Any travelers to the country in December (Christmas) or April (Easter) are advised against traveling more than necessary as the entire country is on the move, making it difficult to get a seat on any type of transport.
January, May and December are the best months to visit the Philippines if colorful celebrations and fiestas are on your list of ‘purpose for making the trip’. If your itinerary includes visits to the rice terraces in North Luzon, the best time to do this would be in March and April as the weather is pleasantly warm. Apart from that, these warm summer months are also ideal for island hopping. Do be advised that for those who can’t take the heat, the month of May can be quite an experience of warm discomfort.
What To Bring?
The golden rule of traveling is to bring as little of your belongings as possible. Fortunately, most of the things that you might require are easily available upon arrival in the Philippines. Apart from the basic traveling necessities and your own special personal needs, it is not necessary to bring anything else other than (perhaps) a travel plug adapter, a pocket calculator, a torchlight, an umbrella and photographic supplies. Medications can be found at drug stores in major cities. In the event that you are confronted with problems when finding the things that you need, the ever-helpful staff at any Tourist Information Center will advise you as to where you can acquire them.
What To Wear?
Like its wonderfully varied culture, the country also has enough climatic changes that would require a wide variety of clothing. It is advisable to bring light and loose clothing that are suitable for tropical temperatures when visiting the cities of Philippines. If you are planning to make a trip to the mountains or scale the odd volcano, do bring along warmer clothing such as jumpers (sweaters) and a light jacket, even on the hottest months. And also, do bring along your thongs or flip-flops as you might find it useful in hotel bathrooms, showers or when you visit the beach. Don’t forget to pack some of your formal clothing, as you might need it when you attend formal gatherings, festivals or religious services.
Travelers are requested to pay an airport tax of P500 when departing from Manila’s Ninoy Aquino International Airport. If departing from Cebu City, the airport tax is P400, while in Davao, it is P220. Travelers are advised to check with their travel agents on this issue before departure as the fees are subject to change.
Unlike most Asian countries, the culture of tipping in the Philippines’ service industry is becoming more prevalent with much influence from western countries. Although, nearly all major hotels and restaurants have a policy of automatically adding a 10 percent service charge to your bills, a small token to show you gratitude is still expected in the form of a tip, leaving the amount for the tip to the customer’s own discretion. Apart from hotels and restaurants, other smaller service establishments as well as taxi drivers expect a small gratuity in return for the service rendered.
In Manila, most shops are open six days a week, from 9 or 10am to 7 or 10pm. As for shopping centers, supermarkets and departmental stores, the operating hours are from 10am to 7pm daily. Shops located outside of Manila don’t usually follow a fixed schedule or business hours due to shop owners’ attitude of ‘whatever happens’ (Bahala na).
Government, private offices and public authorities operate from Monday to Friday from 8am to 5pm with workers breaking for lunch from 12pm to 1pm. Some private offices are also open on Saturdays from 8am to 12 noon. Business hours for banks are Monday-Friday from 9am to 3 or 3.30pm. Embassies or consulates are open to the public at 9am and close at 1pm. The opening hours of post offices in the Philippines differ from one place to another. Usually, post offices are open from 8am to 12 noon and from 1pm to 5pm on weekdays. And for those that operate on Saturdays, the business hours are from 8am to 1pm.
The standard voltage of electricity used by most business centers and residents in the Philippines is 220 volts AC, 60 cycles. However, quite a few major hotels in some areas also have the US-style 110 volts capability.
The island republic is eight hours ahead of Greenwich Mean Time (GMT). When it is 12 noon in the Philippines, it is 3am in London, 8pm the previous evening in San Francisco and 11pm in New York. With the country lying near the equator, sunrise and sunset are almost equally spread at about 6am and 6pm give or take half an hour.
Philippine’s time has a strange nature, which includes lack of punctuality. So, don’t be surprised if you are either waited for or left waiting.